June is when anticipation really starts building for the upcoming college football season. By this point, the expectations for next season are crystallizing. Teams are being analyzed, their schedules studied. The next two and a half months will certainly be a time of great impatience for college football fans everywhere. Impatience and prognostication.
Starting with this post, I will commence College Sports Town’s first annual College Football Preview. The preview will work similarly to dbc482’s baseball preview. By that I mean I will go conference-by-conference in my predictions, focusing on one conference per preview.
To start things off, here is my top 20. Tell me which teams I have too high and too low in the comments!
1. Alabama: I’m talking three in a row. Three freaking National Titles in a row. Alabama, which has won each of the past two National Championship Games (in blowout fashion no less) has a team good enough to win a third straight. AJ McCaron, T.J. Yeldon, CJ Mosley (‘Bama has too many players with abbreviated names), Amari Cooper (combo of Amar’e Stoudemire and a certain blogger), and, most importantly, Nick Saban, all return. This team could be even better than last season’s. Yeah, the one that dismembered Notre Dame last season to the tune of a 42-14 blowout. No Joke.
2. Ohio State: Ok, Urban. We see you. After the Buckeyes stunk up the joint in 2011 (at least by their standards), Urban Meyer came in and cleaned things up last season, leading Ohio State to a 12-0 season that did not involve a bowl because the NCAA is anti-free tattoos. There is a lot to like about this year’s team starting with the fact that they might have the best player in college football in Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes’ O-line will also be beastly. And the Bowl ban is over! Another undefeated season ain’t out of the question.
3. Stanford: So much smash mouth. These guys are tough and ended last season with a bang, winning four in a row against ranked teams (Oregon State, Oregon, and then UCLA twice) before pushing past Wiscy in the Rose Bowl. QB Kevin Hogan has skills, both lines should be robust, and the linebacking corps, anchored by Trent Murphy, looks to be off the charts good. The Cardinal should be incredible.
4. Georgia: Suffice to say that Mark Richt found a way to right the ship the past couple of seasons (because Richt and right sound kinda similar… shut up). Georgia is returning sooooo much talent from last season, and they were ridiculous last season (beat Florida, Nebraska, came a hair short of beating ‘Bama). The defense will be young, however, and they open the season with games against two of the nation’s top teams–Clemson and South Carolina–so they’ll need to grow up fast. But QB Aaron Murray and his O-line are back, so this team could win it all. That opening stretch’ll be scary though.
5. Oregon: It’s Oregon, so you know the drill. They’ll use their stable of lightening quick backfield pieces (Marcus Mariota, De’Anthony Thomas, Byron Marshall) to score asinine quantities of points on a weekly basis and blow away virtually everyone in their path. If off field distractions don’t get in the way, and the coaching transition from Chip Kelly to Mark Helfrich is smooth, the Ducks will be contenders for the crystal ball.
6. Clemson: The Tigers represent another offensive powerhouse. Tajh Boyd and Sammy Watkins return for a team that lit up scoreboards consistently last season, scoring 41 a game. The Tigers’ defense remains a bit of a work in progress, but signs were positive last year. Clemson should be as good as it gets in the lackluster ACC.
7. South Carolina: How about putting the South Carolina state schools back-to-back? Whether or not they ever decide on a QB, you have to like the Gamecocks’ defense. Anchored by
S uperman Jadeveon Clowney, South Carolina will be a tough out all season.
8. Texas A&M: Powered by freshman sensation Johnny Manziel, the Aggies took the SEC by storm last season, slicing and dicing stout defenses like DiGiorno pizzas (OMG, OMG, I’m making myself hungry) and beating Alabama along the way. Manziel returns, now with a Heisman Trophy on his resume, and the Aggies bring back a number of other weapons including wideout Mike Evans. Pizza time will continue.
9. Oklahoma State: Yeah, they kinda disappointed last season, but the Cowboys appear poised for a bounce back season thanks to the return of a bunch of talented guys including superstar receiver Josh Stewart. Ok State should also have one of their best defenses in years (not necessarily all that good, but better than recent ones) and the offense will be the usual show.
10. Louisville: This might be a case of a team being overhyped–the Cards lost to both Syracuse and UConn last season–but Charlie Strong is one of the best coaches in college football right now and he has a darkhorse Heisman candidate under center in Teddy Bridgewater. In the new, and really crummy, AAC, the goal should be perfection, at least in the regular season.
11. Michigan: After taking a step back last season, the Wolverines should vault back to where they were in 2011. QB Devin Gardner is a beast, linebacker Jake Ryan is too, and coach Brady Hoke knows what he is doing. If a team is going to keep Ohio State from winning the Big Ten, Michigan is probably the most likely candidate.
12. Notre Dame: Following that uber weird 2012 season where the Irish were really good at times, really lucky at others, and then not so good or lucky in the season’s biggest game (I’m not even touching the Manti Te’o thing), I’m calling for a Warren G. Harding style return to normalcy. That is to say, I think Notre Dame will be solid, probably 10-11 win good. Like the good ole’ Brady Quinn days.
13. Florida: The Gators’ defense last year was unfairly good and should be one of the best in the nation again this season despite some turnover. Now, about that offense. If they had one of those last season, it isn’t unreasonable to say they might have won it all. This season they should be better offensively and will be contenders in the loaded SEC East.
14. Boise State: The Broncos are as consistent as it gets, having only lost five games in the past five seasons. While they don’t bring back that much from last season, QB Joe Southwick will return for his senior season and talent on the D-line is also coming back. Which leaves the Broncos right about here. Should be another solid season in Boise.
15. LSU: The Tigers’ defense might take a small step back, but their offense should be excellent under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. Zach Mettenberger is back too, and it should be a good season for LSU. Of course, they do have to play in the same division as Alabama and Texas A&M.
16. UCLA: Jim Mora’s first season as the head coach of UCLA went well. Very well. The Bruins won 9 games, beat a solid Arizona team by 56, and twice gave Stanford good shots in losing efforts. They will miss Jonathan Franklin, but QB Brett Hundley is super and the Bruins should have an even better year two under Mora.
17. Texas: With Mack Brown’s seat still flaming, Texas will try to meet another round of ridiculous expectations (which I am sorta going along with in this ranking). They do have talent, but the defensive issues are disconcerting. The good news is that the Long Horns have settled on a QB in David Ash and their offense should be pretty darn good.
18. Florida State: Last season was a very good one for FSU, although they wtfed a loss to NC State and didn’t have quite enough to take down Florida in the regular season finale. QB EJ Manuel has moved on to the Bills, but the ‘Noles defense should be quick and ferocious. Even if the offense flounders, FSU should be solid.
19. Baylor: The Bears finished last season on a four game winning streak that included wins over K-State (at the time ranked No. 1), Oklahoma State, and UCLA. They can score with the best of them and, when the defense holds up, the Bears are as tough to beat as really any team. I think the D will hold up more times than not this season.
20. Northwestern: The Wildcats quietly won 10 games last season and were two super-tight losses away from winning more. Almost everyone is back from that team, including stars like Venric Mark and utility guy Kain Colter, so the Wildcats should be even better. The schedule won’t be nearly as forgiving as last season’s, however.